If you suffer from autoimmune Hashimoto’s low thyroid, you may also suffer from some degree of brain inflammation. Symptoms of brain inflammation brain fog, fatigue, poor motivation, and depression. Sometimes brain inflammation can be debilitating if it is advanced enough.
What type of brain inflammation do you have? Brain inflammation can be subtle, moderate, or severe. It can also be transient or chronic. If you have autoimmune Hashimoto’s, you should also be mindful of brain autoimmunity, another factor in causing brain inflammation.
Subtle brain inflammation:
- Brain fog
- Slower mental speed
- Lower brain endurance (can’t read, work, or drive as long you used to)
- Brain fatigue after exposure to specific foods or chemicals
- Comes and goes
Moderate brain inflammation:
- Lack of motivation
- Unable to focus and concentrate well
- Always sleepy
- Need to sleep more than 8 hours
- Appetite loss
- Unable to be physically active
Severe brain inflammation:
- Disorientation or confusion
- Difficulty speaking
- Tremors or trembling
- Involuntary twitching
- Exposure to a trigger activates symptoms but they subside. Individual has more good days than bad.
- Symptoms persistent chronically and the individual has more bad days than good.
- Autoimmunity is a condition in which the immune system attacks tissue in the body, mistaking it for a foreign invader. Hashimoto’s is caused by the immune system attacking the thyroid gland and neuroautoimmunity happens when the immune system attacks nerve tissue. This causes neurological symptoms, depending on the area of the brain being attacked. These individuals also suffer from the common symptoms of brain inflammation, such as brain fog, fatigue, and depression. If you have Hashimoto’s it’s important to rule out whether you have brain autoimmunity.
Why brain inflammation happens
We’re accustomed to thinking neurons are the primary cells in the brain, but they actually only make up about 10 percent of the brain. The rest of the brain is comprised of the brain’s immune cells, called glial cells. These cells outnumber neurons 10 to 1.
Researchers have discovered glial cells do significantly more than protect the brain. When the brain is not engaged in inflammation, glial cells support healthy neuron function, remove plaque and debris that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases, and support healthy communication between neurons.
Things that cause brain inflammation include brain injury, autoimmune disease, insulin resistance and diabetes, inflammatory foods, food intolerances, excess alcohol consumption, chronic viral or bacterial infections, leaky gut, leaky blood-brain barrier, hormonal imbalances, or other chronic imbalances.
Chronic brain inflammation steals glial cells away from supporting neurons to instead engage in inflammatory combat.
If your symptoms are mild, functional medicine protocols can help reverse them. As long as you follow a healthy diet and lifestyle, you can live a life largely free of brain inflammation symptoms.
These protocols include:
- Balancing blood sugar; lower high blood sugar.
- Do not eat foods that cause an inflammatory reaction, particularly gluten.
- Repair leaky gut and leaky blood-brain barrier.
- Improving diversity of your gut microbiome.
- Manage your Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
- Manage chronic infections.
- Taking glutathione and other supplements that dampen inflammation.
- Exercise daily, particularly with high-intensity interval training (HIIT).
- Balance your hormones.
If your brain inflammation is moderate to severe, you may need to go beyond these steps to pursue one or more root causes more emphatically. The brain’s immune system does not have an off switch like the body’s and brain inflammation can damage brain tissue for a long time.
Also, a severe brain inflammatory event can cause glial cells to become “primed.” This means the cell’s shape has permanently changed so that it no longer can help neurons and just functions in an inflammatory capacity. These glial cells also die sooner.
If your glial cells are primed, this means acute inflammatory triggers can set off severe brain inflammation symptoms, such as bouts of memory loss, inability to speak properly, loss of muscle function, being bedridden from fatigue, and more.
Outside of brain inflammation another mechanism that can cause brain symptoms is called “neurons close to threshold.” This happens when neurons are too weak and fragile and are easily overwhelmed, which causes them to fatigue. Smelling perfumes for the chemically sensitive person, eating gluten for the gluten intolerant person, pushing your brain past what it can handle (with reading, working, studying, driving, etc.), too much noise for someone who is sound sensitive, etc. are examples of events that can fatigue weak neurons.
This happens because poor habits or chronic inflammation damages the neurons’ mitochondria, the energy factory in each cell. This weakens the neurons and causes them to fire too easily and fatigue.
This is a broad overview of neuroinflammatory concepts. Ask my office how we can help you manage your brain inflammation.